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This guide will suggest information resources related to political science. If you need assistance during your research, contact the Reference Desk at 413-572-5234 or firstname.lastname@example.org .If you would like an individual reaearch consultation for a more in-depth project or paper, please contact me at the information shown on my profile to the right.
The first step in the research process is to define your topic. This may seem self-evident, but careful topic selection will make your research more effective. For example, "The Supreme Court" is too broad a topic. What about the Supreme Court are you interested in? If you formulate a question or a thesis, this will help you focus your research. Maybe you are interested in gun control. If you ask "How does the Supreme Court interpret the second amendment?" you have a specific question you can seek information about. Moreover, you now have two very good search terms to use with databases and catalogs.
How choosing a topic well can make searching easier: In this example, a search for full text articles on the "Supreme Court" in the database Academic Search Premier yields over 80,000 articles! Way too many. A search for "supreme court AND second amendment" narrows it down to 145 articles. If the search is limited to scholarly journals, the result is 34 articles. See how it works? Starting with a broad search, and slowly narrowing down is a good strategy in most databases. It also shows you how important it is to know what you are looking for!
Where to begin? A good way to get started is to browse encyclopedias and other reference sources to get a feel for the subject you are interested in. Look at the textbooks for your course. Try an online encyclopedia like Britannica or Wikipedia. Remember, encyclopedias are just for getting started. There are generally better sources for papers. For controversial policy issues, the CQ Researcher database is a great source. Use this first round of browsing to choose your topic. Once you've done that, you have some search terms and can get serious. Your next stop is to look for articles, books, and web resources.
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